The Madness of Lady Lydia
Waterloo Station: England: Spring 1958
The mournful sound made by the train as it pulled out of Waterloo Station was the saddest thing Ella had ever heard.
She bit her lip, trying hard not to cry as London began to slide away into the hazy afternoon sunshine.
Mrs Hicks the Orphan Officer assigned to accompany Ella to her new foster-home was a big woman.
She had escorted many orphans to new homes but this was the first time with a coloured girl: attractive in a primitive way she thought and probably why she had been chosen by Lady Lydia.
Some of the girls had gone to sordid brothels but this girl Ella was a lucky one.
The buttons on Mrs Hicks blouse were in danger of flying off as her large bosom heaved with each sigh she made throughout the long train journey but eventually the train pulled into Petersfield Station.
“Here we are at last then Ella.” sighed Mrs Hicks, I’ll take your case; you make sure you leave nothing on the train my dear.” she said leading the way onto the platform.
Ella felt scared yet held out her chin saying a prayer as Mrs Hicks lead her up to the lavishly dressed lady who was there to receive them.
Mrs Hicks introduced herself and as they chatted Ella took in the lady’s stylish outfit; from the high-heeled brown and cream shoes up to the jaunty brown velour hat, spiked with a long feather; she looked every inch a movie star. Indeed the face beneath the hat could have been that of an actress yet although elegant was somehow detached.
Ella’s heart skipped a beat as the woman’s hazel eye’s scrutinised her own and although Ella had raised a smile, the woman looked away with seeming indifference. In fact she had looked away to hide her lust for the girl.
Mrs Hicks turned to her now asking, “How old are you now Ella?”
“I was fourteen last month Mrs Hicks.”
“Have you started your period’s yet dear?”
Ella’s face blushed. “Yes Mrs Hicks.”
“So do you use tampons dear?”
“Yes!” she said indignantly.
“Very well dear.”
Mrs Hicks took her by the shoulder saying, “Now Ella, being a coloured girl your very lucky to be taken in by your benefactor Lady Lydia, here; so what do you say to her?”
“I’m very grateful miss.”
The lady gave a slight nod.
“That’s right Ella and always be on your best behaviour with her Ladyship.”
“Yes Mrs Hicks.”
Lady Lydia now address Ella, “Follow me to the car would you child.”
She turned and with her heels tapping the concourse and hat-feather bouncing, it seemingly beckoned Ella to a waiting grey limousine.
She followed obediently but she shied as the chauffeur leaped forward to open the door.
“Please don’t loiter, just get into the Bentley.” Lady Lydia softly scorned.
The unfamiliar smell of leather combined with her gnawing hunger made her feel faint as she huddled into a corner closing her eyes on it all.
“Drive strait home Jackson, would you.” Lady Lydia ordered.
The car silently picked up speed upon leaving the village and Ella now looked out at the passing countryside. Lydia now drank in what she had acquired; the coffee coloured skin, the budding of her breast, the slim waist, the long slender limbs; she had netted a little beauty.
“Your very quiet for a teenager,” said Lady Lydia as she lit-up a cigarette she had fixed into a green onyx holder. She inhaled with obvious pleasure and exhaled slowly as she replaced the gold cigarette case and lighter into her bag saying, “ Mrs Hicks tells me you attended the Baptist Church on Sundays; are you a religious girl?”
“No, ... I just enjoyed singing the hymns Miss.”
“I see, well you should call me Ma’am not Miss.”
“Yes mis – Ma’am.”
Lady Lydia continued to smoke in silence, occasionally tapping the ash into a secluded ashtray.
Remembering it was rude to stare Ella gazed at the passing hedgerows and fields of ripe corn that were spiked with scarlet poppies and blue corn-flowers.
She had read about the countryside and even seen the flat fields of Essex; from the train window on an orphanage holiday to Southend but these rolling hills of Hampshire were so beautiful.
Later they sped passed a field of cows grazing on rich green grass. Eventually though the car slowed and turned into the entrance of the manor house.
Lowering the passenger windows, Jackson then drove the Bentley sedately along the tree-line drive. It so impressed Ella she forgot her shyness, “ This is just like the botanical gardens in London ma’am!”
“Oh really,” replied Lady Lydia sarcastically, “so pleased you approve.”
Ella smiled at having got a response from the movie queen. She spotted a small lake with an island in the middle and marble statue thing on a gentle slope. It was all so trim and green and posh! - But Jackson had bought the car to a sudden halt?
Suddenly a clatter of hooves; with the appearance of a horse alongside Ella by the open window! Ella screamed!
The horse snorted; its eyes rolled and nostrils flared; Ella covered her eyes and screamed again.
Then the strident voice of a young man. “ Good grief, who have you in there mother?”
But Ella dared not look up.
“Rufus! This is not the wild west. Get that beast away from the Bentley before it does some damage.” Lady Lydia screeched.
Rufus chortled, “Why mother! you’ve kid-napped a native-girl! How exciting!”
Ella, having risen before dawn to leave home; having eaten next to nothing throughout a day’s travel, at that point, simply fainted in the car.
“Good grief mother! the man laughed, “my presence has overwhelmed her!”
Closing the door of the night nursery where Ella was now peacefully sleeping Rufus made his way down to speak with the cook, Mrs Toon in the kitchen.
“Let the native girl sleep an hour or so before taking her some supper Mrs Toon. The tumbler of water I made her drink made all the difference and I laced it with a mild sedative. She was mostly dehydrated and exhausted.”
Doing as Mr Rufus had bid, Mrs Toon had gently awoken Ella over an hour later. Ella sat up in bed and gazed in wonder at her comfortable surroundings.
Mrs Toon explained how she had passed out upon arrival from fatigue. How Mr Rufus had carried her up here to the Nursery accommodation; how he’d given her something to help her rest a while.
Placing the tray on Ella’s lap Mrs Toon then left her alone with the meal.
Ella, eagerly enjoying the rich soup and bread, suddenly realised that someone must have undressed her before putting her to bed. Who? Mrs Toon or the gentleman?
It was just one of so many questions that were spinning in her mind.
The following morning saw Ella being called formally before the elderly Squire and Lady Lydia in the library.
Lady Lydia introduce her husband as Squire Edwin who seem a kindly gent but simply smiled from his armchair and welcomed her to Squires Lodge and asking if she knew how to play chess?
Lady Lydia went on to explain that since the Squire’s recent fall, her son Rufus now managed much of the estate.
But there was also her daughter Amber who lived in London with her husband and little boy Rupert.
However young Rupert often stayed here and now required two nurse-maids.
A day-nurse who came in from the village and a night-nurse who slept in the nursery.
A night-nurse’s duty could begin after five in the evening; round to nine in the morning.
Ella was trying to absorb all that Lady Lydia was telling her when suddenly Lady Lydia put a question to Ella, “ Did you find the night-nursery accommodation comfortable?”
“Oh, yes Ma’am, Very comfortable, thank you.”
“Now Ella, could you manage looking after little Rupert; as our night-nurse here at the Lodge?”
Ella’s eyes widened in surprise and she broke out a big smile, “ Oh yes Ma’am, I could!” For the first time in her life she was being offered a responsible job; and for a Lady no less!
“Very well, - but I will need your help with various other things in time; you do understand girl?”
“Yes of course Ma’am I understand completely!”
And so, Lady Lydia informed Ella that when Amber Carroll-Rice arrived with Rupert next week, she’d be reading the toddler a bedtime story in the nursery.
When she awakened the next morning Ella pulled aside the cheerful yellow curtains that floated in the breeze from the open window. The Beatrice Potter prints on the walls made her smile and she was amazed at the silence of the household. The nursery night room was on the back of the house overlooking the wide sweep of green lawn and a mirror like sheen came from the lake between a stand of silver birch trees and dense shrubbery.
She wandered into the bathroom with its huge cast iron bath with claw feet; a wash basin big enough to bathe in and a willow patterned lavatory. Ella laughed at what fate had brought her.
She set about dressing. In the big wardrobe was a vast a selection of clothes that were all her size? She later discovered they had been Mrs Amber’s teenage cast-offs.
Ella was use to cast-offs but never had she known such variety and quality such as this. Many of the items were like stage clothes!
She selected a plain sweatshirt and short skirt with trainers and with her tummy rumbling from hunger she ventured down the three fight of stairs to the kitchen.
A wave of sound enveloped her as she opened the door and Violet barged passed her with a dust-pan and brush. “Better keep out of Mrs Toon way kid, she’s on the warpath this morning!” She disappeared as the heavy baize door slammed; shutting out the din from spoiling the genteel calm of above stairs.
“Oh it’s you is it – well I can’t be doing with you under me feet today; so much to do; there’s porridge on the Aga and all the rest is on the sideboard – you’ll just have to help yourself.”
Ella cautiously approached the Aga and handled the huge ladle before tucking herself into a corner of the kitchen with her breakfast. She watched in awe as Mrs Toon barked orders at two women who appeared from the scullery at intervals with huge pots.
Olive burst in, her arms full. “I hate bloody shooting parties!” she spat.
“Language!” piped Mrs Toon.
“And keep something hot for Mr Rufus; he’s still not back from his morning ride.” said Olive.
Mrs Toon gazed at the ceiling with despair.
Ella took her bowl into the scullery then escaped out into a cobbled yard surrounded by out-buildings. A familiar smell of course soap and soda billowed out in clouds of steam from the washhouse bringing a lump of nostalgia to her throat as the sound of women laughing and joshing while they worked.
She went to the entrance but hesitated but longing to go inside and find a motherly sole who would love and cuddle her; but they were too preoccupied to notice her.
Then she notice a gate that led to the stable-yard.
The smell of horse dung, damp straw and leather was more pleasant than she may have imagined. Suddenly she realised she was close to a horse and she felt icy fear in her chest! As it munched loudly on it’s hay, it’s teeth seemed they could easily take off her hand!
Then came a sudden shout from Jock, and in panic she ran through the yard; to hide in a clump of bushes; but a pigeon panicked next to her; the noise its wings causing her to scream and run.
Her feet crunched the gravel as she ran along the drive; but too late she became aware of horse’s hooves and Rufus’s warning shout as his horse reared and Ella fell into a sea of darkness.
Ella vaguely realised there was a crystal chandelier above her where before there was sky and she was reclined on a sofa in the drawing-room.
The female voice belonged to an attractive young lady with dark hair similar to Rufus’s.
“Well she’s a bronzed little thing,” sang Rufus’s sister Amber.
“Yes; and she went down like a ninepin in front of Romeo.”
“My God Rufus! She’s wearing some of my old clothes! Where is she from?”
“She’s mother’s new night-time nanny from London; but she seems to be accident prone.”
“Well, I hope she’s up to the job; still she’s a sexy little thing; how old is she anyway?”
“Quite Amber; she coming round now.”
Ella then mumbled, “ I’m so sorry I ran into you Mr Rufus.”
Rufus’s finger stroked her cheek and his spice-scented cologne penetrated her senses.
“You OK young Ella?”
“Right as rain Mr Rufus,” she smiled weakly.
Rufus and his sister Amber both let out a relieved chuckle.
Rufus then strolled off into the garden to ponder.
Amber remained alongside Ella; her hand caressing the girls face.
“Well its nice to see my old clothes are useful ... I understand that your Rupert’s new night-nurse; ... so we’ll be rubbing up against each other - from time to time.”
Her fingertip brushed along Ella’s full bottom lip, lightly kissed it, then turned and left the girl.
Ella got to her feet and wandered into the garden; her head brimming over with events.
She came upon a huge old oak tree and stared at it’s vast spread of branches; a few of which came almost touching the grass.
Ella had an urge to climb one of it’s low heavy branches; which beckoned as a refuge.
She quietly clambered up it and sat astride a broad bough; deep within its green foliage.
Then after a short while a gentle chuckle startled her!
“Seems destiny is drawing us together young Ella.”
“Mr Rufus! Where did you come from?”
“Well ... this has been my escape place since I was a lad ... a place I came to figure things out. I think you felt just the same; when you decided to climb into this old oak.”
Ella was surprised that he was talking intimately with her, “Why ... yes, I did.”
“It’s rather a lot to take in I imagine young Ella.”
“Well yes; so many questions have come in at me since I arrived Mr Rufus.”
“O K Ella ... like what for instance?”
“Well ... for instance, why does Rupert stay here; when his father is in London?”
Rufus stared gently at Ella. “I should have realised your far too bright for that to have escaped you young Ella ... Well, I’ll tell you, but you really have to keep it a secret: Is that a deal?”
“Oh, - well yes of course Mr Rufus; I give you my word!”
“O K; well ... Rupert’s father in London: Well he’s not actually the father of Rupert.
And ... well I may as well tell you now Ella, I am Rupert’s father!”
There was a period of peace while the implications of this statement settled in Ella’s mind,
“So ... you and ... your sister Amber ... are Rupert’s parents?”
Rufus smiled ruefully, the age gap of this lovely young thing was was nearly beyond the boundary and yet ... and yet
“You are very diplomatic young Ella. Yes, I know it’s rather modern; and I don’t expect you to approve, but at least you know the truth. Look, just call me Rufus OK?”
Ella suddenly realised her skirt was round her hips and that her bare thighs hugged the bough of the tree like a huge cock! ... but their was nothing she could do about it!
“O K ... Rufus” she said shyly.
“Well Ella; you do have very nice legs! he chuckled.
Ella blushed with embarrassment.
Rufus laughed. “You could use that bough for horse riding practice! ... Have you ever done any riding?”
“Well no; actually I’m terrified of them as you’ve probably realised.”
“OK ... well ... if you want to get into jodhpurs sometime and meet me in the yard in; we could overcome your fear quiet soon,” smiled Rufus.
Ella gazed in awe at the young man. “Oh, do you really think so Rufus?”
From the branch above he nimbly moved close; hooking his arm around her.
“Yes ... I really think so ... and I also think you deserve a kiss.”
Her heart thumped as his fingers went to the nape of her neck, easing her head towards his own. He then pulled her mouth onto his for a luscious kiss while his other hand caressed her thigh; her snatch instantly juiced up.
Rufus then suddenly pulled away and then swung out of the tree and then was gone.